Setting Savings Goals During Deployment

By Military OneSource
There may never be a bad time to organize your budget and build your savings. Deployment, though, is one of the best opportunities to add to your savings, maybe at a rate that you wouldn't otherwise be able to afford.

During your deployment, you may be eligible for special payments and entitlements, including Family Separation Allowance, the Combat Zone Tax Exclusion, Hostile Fire or Imminent Danger Pays and Hardship Duty Location Pay. Expecting a boost in your usual income and having a plan for it can prevent frivolous spending and get you closer to your financial goals for the future.

Before you can set savings goals for your deployment, you need a basic understanding of where you're going, how long you'll be there, and which extra pays and entitlements you qualify for as a result. Obviously, details can change and amounts can fluctuate, but a ballpark figure is enough to get you started. For example, some compensation is only offered for deployment periods of more than 30 days, and you'll likely know in advance or soon into the deployment if you'll be gone at least that long.

Set your goal

While your goal can be anything you want, there is a catch. You have to be saving toward something that is important enough to you (and your family) to limit simply spending the money instead. When the extra income is linked to something you want, whether in the near future or the distant future, you'll be less likely to shrug off spending it on unnecessary items for the present.

Sweet, sugar-coated dreams of saving thousands of dollars over the course of a deployment won't get you very far. You're going to need a savings goal. Your goal can be a loan pay-off amount or dollar amount; maybe you want to save $5,000. Your goal can also be a big purchase - it isn't uncommon to save toward the down payment of a house, car or a once-in-a-lifetime vacation during deployment. You can also use your deployment savings to fund your future and boost your retirement funds.

To set a realistic savings goal, it may be worth your while to discuss pay increases and entitlements with friends who may be just returning from deployment. If you aren't comfortable with that or you prefer more concrete research, you can check MyPay and view your Leave and Earning Statements to compare income before and during deployment. Your spouse can also view your statement, as long as you share your Social Security number and your LES password, so adjusting the savings budget even after deploying is not difficult.

Make your plan

Once you've set your sights on your savings goal, you need a plan of action. How much will you save each pay period, where will you store your savings (an existing savings account, a Thrift Savings AccountSavings Deposit Program or other reputable investment account) and how will the money be transferred (automatically or manually)?

If you are unsure of the best option for you or you'd like more information about your options, you can speak with a financial counselor by contacting Military OneSource at 800-342-9647, or the financial counselor at your Military and Family Support Center. Financial counselors are available to service members and their families at no cost, and they are qualified to assist you with basic money management, financial planning and a review of your savings, investing and retirement plans.

Personal financial managers on your installation are also available to educate you on your military savings options, including those you become eligible for during deployment. Both Military OneSource financial counselors and installation-based PFMs are familiar with deployment pay and entitlement amounts, and they can use their knowledge to help you choose the most profitable savings option for your lifestyle.

Stick to the budget

Even a flawless, well-researched plan is useless if you don't stick to it. Hold yourself accountable (along with any of your family members back home) by checking on each other, making outside savings commitments and periodically assessing the savings progress.

While you're deployed, you may have a significant other or children back home that count on your income. After usual expenses, it can be tempting to spend a little more here and there on deployment treats or added travel expenses to see extended family. Discuss these expenses. Be sure to communicate that you want them to be taken care of, but you want to make sure that everyone is working together to reach the deployment savings goal. If your spouse ever has questions or concerns about managing the budget in your absence, "How to Control Your Budget When Your Spouse is Deployed" can help clear up common concerns and keep you both on the same page financially. Sticking to a savings goal is less stressful when it's a team effort.

You may not want to spend your precious opportunities to communicate hashing out finances or balancing budgets, but discussing them periodically can be enough to keep the savings goals at the forefront of everyone's mind. You can also set up a budget spreadsheet that you can both access through email, shared software or your bank's website to minimize the number of conversations about dollars and cents in order to maximize conversations about your day - the good, the bad and the comical.

You can also find accountability in the Military Saves Pledge. If you have more than one savings goal, you can make more than one pledge. The Military Saves program has the information you need to inspire savings goals and organize your plan, as well as the resources you need to ensure your plan is successful.

Your deployment is the perfect time to turn your focus toward your future and a healthy savings. Turn to Military OneSource's Money Management page for the information and connections you need to keep your finances in check.

Tip of the Day

  • Written by Guest Blogger | May 1, 2014

    Check out the FREE "My Military & Money" app for servicemembers from @BBB and McGraw Hill Financial. More info at

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